Most Protesters Depart After Mobbing Malls: Hong Kong Update

Aaron Mc Nicholas, Bei Hu and Justin Chin

(Bloomberg) -- Most protesters departed the sites of rallies at malls in Hong Kong’s Kowloon and New Territories districts, after an afternoon that saw some people vandalize a train station before clashing with riot police in Shatin.

The rallies were relatively muted coming after Saturday’s clashes that continued late into the night with protesters throwing petrol bombs and police firing tear gas, and some officers coming under direct attack. Hong Kong anticipates large-scale protests on the Oct. 1 anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Local activists -- including protest leader Joshua Wong -- testified at a hearing in Washington last week in support of human rights legislation. There’s momentum growing for Congress to take fast action to pressure Beijing to back off any crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators by threatening its special trading status with the U.S.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 has bipartisan support and would require yearly assessments of whether the Asian financial hub remains sufficiently autonomous from China to justify its unique treatment under American law. The city’s pro-democracy movement, which began over opposition to since-scrapped legislation allowing extraditions to the mainland, is in its fourth month.

Here’s the latest:

Another Station Closed (8:30 p.m.)

Most protesters had departed their various demonstration sites, with a handful of subway stations closed in the wake of the clashes. The latest to close was Kwai Fong, where trains were no longer stopping, according to the MTR’s website.

Kowloon Station Shuttered (6:45 p.m.)

Kowloon subway station, a transit hub, was the third to close on Sunday, according to MTR Corp. It came after protesters and riot police clashed in Shatin. Meanwhile, protesters who had gathered at Maritime Square shopping mall, next to the also-closed Tsing Yi station, began leaving the mall after police inside the station moved out of sight.

Trains Skip Shatin, Tsing Yi (5:30 p.m.)

Both Shatin and Tsing Yi stations were closed by early evening and shutters came down over storefronts at the New Town Plaza mall where protesters had gathered for hours. Some demonstrators vandalized automated MTR ticket machines and others poured liquid on the floor of the mall, which is connected to the subway station. The shopping mall is operated by Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. Protesters jeered as police closed the shutters between Tsing Yi station and the Maritime Square shopping mall.

Earlier in the afternoon, protesters removed a Chinese national flag outside Shatin City Hall and brought it inside to the mall. Some stepped and spray painted on it, then threw it in the Shing Mun River.

Carrie Lam Speaks at Reception (3:55 p.m.)

The city’s chief executive spoke at a National Day reception hosted by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, according to a government statement. Lam said Hong Kong has faced grave challenges recently, and that the government would try its best to keep order and safeguard working people’s livelihoods.

Shatin shopping center sit-in (1 p.m.)

Hundreds of masked people massed in a busy shopping mall in the New Territories town of Shatin where they staged a sit-in, sang songs and musicians gave impromptu performances. The multilevel center was packed with protesters on every floor, raising the ire of some shoppers who shouted abuse at them.

Meanwhile, there was no evidence of any service disruptions at the airport or train stations, even as transport was curtailed because of the threat of demonstrations.

Police obtain protesters’ data: report (9:10 a.m.)

Police obtained data of protesters’ bus commutes from Octopus stored-value smart cards and CCTV camera footage from Kowloon Motor Bus Company, the South China Morning Post cited an unidentified senior police officer as saying.

Curtailed traffic to airport (9 a.m. Sunday)

Airport Authority Hong Kong suspended some transport to the airport in anticipation of protests targeting the facility. All “E” route buses traveling from the city to the airport and the nearby AsiaWorld-Expo will end the trip at Tung Chung from 10:30 a.m., it said in an e-mailed statement Sunday morning. Airport Express trains bound for the airport will only pick up passengers at the Hong Kong Station from 9 a.m until the end of the day’s service.

Violence spreads (Sunday 02.15 a.m.)

Protesters in Tuen Mun repeatedly threw petrol bombs at officers, police said in a statement. Some activists attacked a policeman with “hard objects” and tried to snatch his gun, according to the statement.

In the border town of Yuen Long, petrol bombs were hurled at police vehicles and demonstrators attacked rail carriages, police said. Officers had to break up clashes between opposing groups in different parts of the district, according to the statement.

Protesters blocked roads in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok, where officers fired tear gas and 40 mm react rounds to disperse mobs, police said.

Mall sit-in (8 p.m.)

Protesters gathered in a shopping mall in Yuen Long after a rally in Tuen Mun turned violent. With stores shut, the demonstrators took over the center, singing and chanting. Hundreds staged a sit-in while others milled around waving banners.

Police fire tear gas (5 p.m.)

Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled petrol bombs and set fire to barriers built across roads near shopping malls in Tuen Mun. Thousands of demonstrators roamed through Tuen Mun streets after a peaceful rally in a park.

Light rail service in the area was suspended on three routes, MTR Corp., operator of the city’s train network, said on its website. Police said that the protesters damaged train station facilities and obstructed traffic.

Tear gas warning (3:50 p.m.)

Police raised a black flag outside the train station in Tuen Mun as thousands more protesters poured into the area. The black-flag warning is a signal that officers might fire tear gas.

Football rally (2 p.m.)

The stands of the Tuen Mun sports ground were packed with anti-China demonstrators who watched masked players compete in a game of football in one of the more convivial events since protests began. By mid-afternoon, the turnout at the rally had failed to match a previous one at the venue when crowds packed the stands and filled the pitch.

Clean-up clashes (10:10 a.m.)

Small groups of people scraped walls of notices plastered on boards in public areas citywide by anti-China protesters.

In the border town of Yuen Long, the scene of previous clashes, a small number of people gathered outside the train station, carrying cleaning implements and wearing T-shirts with pro-Beijing slogans. As they tried to clean the walls adorned in bright stickers with anti-government messages, they were confronted by another group clad in black. Police separated them and led some away.

Rail service suspension (Saturday 10 a.m.)

MTR said service at the Tuen Mun and Yuen Long stations would be suspended. The Tuen Mun station would close at 1 p.m. and Yuen Long would shut at 3 p.m., it said on its website, citing public activities. Rallies are planned in both areas Saturday.

Police: 1,474 People Arrested Since June (4:16 p.m.)

Hong Kong police gave updated figures for arrests made since June, saying 1,474 protesters had been detained. Calls for their release is one of demonstrators’ major demands as the movement grinds into October.

U.S. Legislation ‘Hot Air,’ Ip Says (12:58 p.m.)

Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip pushed back at the U.S. during a conference organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, calling the legislation “hot air” and threatening action by Beijing if American lawmakers don’t back down. Ip, who made clear she was not speaking on behalf of the city’s leader Carrie Lam, also urged American audience members to call their congresspeople and ask them to not impose sanctions on Hong Kong.

Amnesty Alleges Police ‘Torture’ (12:23 p.m.)

Hong Kong police beat up protesters who were in custody and committed acts that amount to “torture” during demonstrations, human rights group Amnesty International alleged. Officers used “unnecessary and excessive force” in making arrests, beat a demonstrator for declining to answer a question and then held him to the floor, shined laser pens in the eyes of people who had been detained -- and threatened to electrocute a man’s genitals after he refused to unlock his phone. The new report could fuel anger among protesters who have pushed back at what they see as aggressive police tactics.

Weekend Events

On Sunday, protesters will attempt another disruption of the international airport’s transportation network. Previous attempts haven’t gained much traction.

--With assistance from Stephen Tan, Shelly Banjo, Iain Marlow and Natalie Lung.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.net;Bei Hu in Hong Kong at bhu5@bloomberg.net;Justin Chin in Hong Kong at hchin15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Stanley James, Karen Leigh

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